Religious Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Important Update

The Program in Religious Studies is not accepting new majors or minors at this time. 


Bachelor of Arts (BA)

The Religious Studies undergraduate major at UC Berkeley asks its students to secure a broad background in the liberal arts and also to focus on a thematic concern or a particular religious tradition. It views religion from a global perspective and combines aspects of the humanities and the social sciences. The major is open to anyone interested in studying religion and related phenomena academically. It is not directed especially to those who have a religious background or those who are thinking of pursuing a religious vocation. Majors will be challenged to regard religious traditions as both means and objects of intellectual inquiry and to regard their claims both appreciatively and critically.

The core religious studies courses present methodological questions and approaches to the study of religion (such as philosophy of religion, sociology of religion, history, interpretation), examine thematic, often cross-cultural phenomena (such as ritual, prayer and mysticism, and comparative ethics), or present issues within a particular religious tradition. Other courses available for the major originate in other disciplines on campus: for instance, history, anthropology, sociology, and language and literature departments. The traditions that may be included as fields of emphasis or supplementary courses include the Jewish, Islamic, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions as well as the religious cultures of China, Japan, Africa, and the Americas.

Declaring the Major

For information regarding how to declare the major, please see the undergraduate adviser, Laura Spautz, in 237 Evans Hall.

Honors Program

Students may elect to attempt graduation with honors if they have done well in both general university work and the major courses at the beginning of their senior year. Requirements include upper division work in a language relevant to the student's academic program (with consent of adviser) and the submission of a bachelor's thesis as a culmination of one or two semesters of the sequence, RELIGST H195A-RELIGST H195B. The thesis must be approved by both the adviser and the student's thesis director.

Minor Program

Students wishing to receive a minor in Religious Studies should visit the student academic adviser in 237 Evans Hall.

Visit Program Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for graded credit, other than courses listed which are offered on a Pass/No Pass basis only. Other exceptions to this requirement are noted as applicable.
  2. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs, with the exception of minors offered outside of the College of Letters & Science.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.

For information regarding residence requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Lower Division Requirements

These courses must be taken before choosing a field of emphasis.

RELIGST 90AIntroductory Topics in Religious Studies4
RELIGST 90BIntroductory Topics in Religious Studies4

Upper Division Requirements

Methodological Courses
Select two courses; see the program website for courses in addition to the following:
Religion and Anthropology
RELIGST C182
Course Not Available
Topics in the Study of Religion (when topic is methodological)
Thematic Courses
Select two courses; see the program website for courses in addition to the following:
The Bible in Western Culture
RELIGST C109
Course Not Available
RELIGST C165
Course Not Available
Topics in the Study of Religion (when topic is thematic)
Field of Emphasis
Select three courses (see below)
Additional 30 Units of Upper Division Religion Courses
The selection of these courses must be approved by the program director or the student services adviser

Field of Emphasis

The field may be any cross-cultural theme (such as the study of ritual, myth, or ethics) in which three courses are available, a cultural period (such as the religious interaction of medieval Europe or modern Asia), or the study of a single religious tradition (such as Christianity or Buddhism).

Minor Requirements

Students who have a strong interest in an area of study outside their major often decide to complete a minor program. These programs have set requirements and are noted officially on the transcript in the memoranda section, but they are not noted on diplomas.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements below must be taken for graded credit.
  2. A minimum of three of the upper division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley.
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  4. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement, for Letters & Science students.
  5. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  6. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which the student plans to graduate. Students who cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time should see a College of Letters & Science adviser.
  7. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)

Requirements 

Lower Division
RELIGST 90AIntroductory Topics in Religious Studies4
RELIGST 90BIntroductory Topics in Religious Studies4
Upper Division
Select five upper division courses from the approved list, on file in the group major office

College Requirements

Undergraduate students in the College of Letters & Science must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide.

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

American Cultures

American Cultures is the one requirement that all undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete a first-level reading and composition course by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units, including at least 60 L&S units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department

Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding EAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Courses

Religious Studies

RELIGST 24 Freshman Seminar 1 Unit

Terms offered: Fall 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2002
The Freshman Seminar Program has been designed to provide new students with the opportunity to explore an intellectual topic with a faculty member in a small seminar setting. Freshman seminars are offered in all campus departments and topics vary from department to department and semester to semester. Enrollment limited to fifteen freshmen.

Freshman Seminar: Read More [+]

RELIGST 90A Introductory Topics in Religious Studies 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2015, Fall 2014, Fall 2013
Selected introductory topics in the study of religion.

Introductory Topics in Religious Studies: Read More [+]

RELIGST 90B Introductory Topics in Religious Studies 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2016, Spring 2015, Spring 2014
Selected introductory topics in the study of religion.

Introductory Topics in Religious Studies: Read More [+]

RELIGST C90B Introductory Topics in Religious Studies 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2012, Fall 2010, Fall 2007
Selected introductory topics in the study of religion.

Introductory Topics in Religious Studies: Read More [+]

RELIGST C103 Religion of Ancient Egypt 3 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2014, Spring 2013, Spring 2009
A survey of the religious beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, based primarily upon the written sources.

Religion of Ancient Egypt: Read More [+]

RELIGST C104 Babylonian Religion 3 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2017, Summer 2016 10 Week Session, Summer 2016 Second 6 Week Session, Summer 2015 Second 6 Week Session, Spring 2015
A survey of Babylonian religious beliefs and practices based on indigenous texts and monuments.

Babylonian Religion: Read More [+]

RELIGST C108 Scandinavian Myth and Religion 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2016, Spring 2015, Spring 2014
Religious beliefs and practices during the Viking Age in Scandinavia and their manifestations in later recordings. Readings and discussion in English.

Scandinavian Myth and Religion: Read More [+]

RELIGST C118 Western Mysticism: Religion, Art, and Literature 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2009, Spring 2007, Spring 2003
The course will focus on examples of mystical thought from the traditions of Christian and Jewish mysticism since the Middle Ages. In addition to the introduction of the students to basic texts and concepts we will discuss the effects of mystical thought on art and literature from the Middle Ages up to today.

Western Mysticism: Religion, Art, and Literature: Read More [+]

RELIGST C124 The Renaissance and the Reformation 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2017, Fall 2015, Fall 2013, Spring 2012
European history from the fourteenth to the middle of the seventeenth century. Political, social, and economic developments during this transitional period will be examined, together with the rise of Renaissance culture, and the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century.

The Renaissance and the Reformation: Read More [+]

RELIGST C133 Judaism in Late Antiquity 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2007, Spring 2006, Spring 2004
This class will examine the emergence and development of classical Judaism, its piety, institutions, thought, and literature.

Judaism in Late Antiquity: Read More [+]

RELIGST C135 Jewish Civilization: Modern Period 4 Units

Terms offered: Fall 2016, Spring 2015, Fall 2013, Fall 2012, Fall 2011
This is the fourth course in a four-course sequence in the history of Jewish culture and civilization. It explores the major themes in Jewish history from 1750 to the present, with special attention paid to the transformation of Jewish communal and individual identity in the modern world. Topics to be treated include the breakdown of traditional society, enlightenment and emancipation, assimilation, Hasidism, racial anti-Semitism
, colonialism, Zionism, and contemporary Jewish life in Europe, North America, and Israel. The multicultural nature of Jewish history will be highlighted throughout the course through the treatment of non-European Jewish narratives alongside the more familiar Ashkenazi perspective.
Jewish Civilization: Modern Period: Read More [+]

RELIGST 173AC Gandhi and the Civil Rights Movement in America 3 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2014, Spring 2013, Spring 2012
This course surveys the impact of Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence and justice in American Civil Rights struggles. Through narratives, images from African American, itinerant Gandhian, and ethnic critics of race practice in American culture, we examine how Gandhian satyagraha shaped emergent civil resistance movements, as also the global appeal to nonviolent democracy. ACES component comprises internship with civil liberties partners that
monitor local implementations of human rights treaties.
Gandhi and the Civil Rights Movement in America: Read More [+]

RELIGST 190 Topics in the Study of Religion 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2016, Fall 2015, Spring 2015
Selected topics or problems in the study of religion.

Topics in the Study of Religion: Read More [+]

RELIGST H195A Honors Course 3 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2016, Fall 2015, Spring 2015
Course may take one or two semesters at the option of the instructor and student with credit to be earned upon completion of a successful thesis. Successful completion of the course will normally, but not necessarily, mean the awarding of honors.

Honors Course: Read More [+]

RELIGST H195B Honors Course 3 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2016, Spring 2015, Spring 2014
Course may take one or two semesters at the option of the instructor and student with credit to be earned upon completion of a successful thesis. Successful completion of the course will normally, but not necessarily, mean the awarding of honors.

Honors Course: Read More [+]

RELIGST 198 Directed Group Study 1 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2010, Spring 2009, Spring 2008
Tutorial instruction in areas not covered by regularly scheduled courses.

Directed Group Study: Read More [+]

RELIGST 199 Supervised Independent Study 1 - 4 Units

Terms offered: Spring 2016, Spring 2015, Spring 2014

Supervised Independent Study: Read More [+]

Faculty and Instructors

Faculty

Peter Sahlins, Professor. Early modern France, animal-human relations, immigration, citizenship and nationality in pre-modern Europe.
Research Profile

Lecturers

Rakesh Bhandari, Lecturer. Classical Social Theory's Images of Asia, The Juridical Aspects of Unfree Labor Relations, The Role of Luxury Consumption in Economic Growth, The Nature and Limits of Keynesian Intervention, The Discourses of Social Darwinism.

Shreeharsh Kelkar, Lecturer. History and anthropology of computing, work, and expertise in the 20th century.

Earl Klee, Lecturer. Politics & Political Economy; Political/Social Theory; Modern War.

Gary Wren, Lecturer. Technology & Society; Development Studies; Social/Political Theory.

Fang Xu, Lecturer.

Contact Information

Religious Studies Program

237 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-642-9320

Visit Program Website

Program Director

Charles Hirschkind, PhD (Department of Anthropology)

232 Kroeber Hall

chirschk@berkeley.edu

Student Academic Adviser

Laura Spautz, MPH

237 Evans Hall

Phone: 510-642-9320

religious.st@berkeley.edu

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